Reimagined revelations

Britney Spears: The Cabaret (Luckiest Productions)

August 13 – 17

Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre

According to Liza Minnelli, the key to cabaret is to be revealing about your life; that and have a stool. In “Britney Spears: The Cabaret” Christen Whelan-Browne does justice to Minnelli’s mantra and so much more. Although Britney’s life is less troubled now, this is not a period piece; the past trials and tribulations of the one-time Mouseketeer, umbrella-wielding, head shaved star prove to be perfect cabaret fodder in their poignancy as much as their comedy, so that the show (which first premiered at the 2009 Adelaide Cabaret Festival) is still engaging.

The show is perfectly paced to journey the audience from uncouth trailer trash rank swamp dog Britney to the soulful sadness of a mother separated from her children, betrayed by toxic loves and plagued by personal woes and the perils of fame. And when presented unplugged style, her pop hits are often surprisingly depressing and easily sequenced to chronicle her life story and fulfilment of the American dream. Indeed the show is ultimately a compassionate reflection of a little girl who dreamed of being big all over the world, without knowing the price, with some quite dark final scenes as she reflects on her definition of worth and ultimate survival and graduation from confused adolescent victim to strong adult and mother, and realisation that she is now product herself as much as of her songs are.

“Britney Spears: The Cabaret” is an excellent example of a show that ticks all the boxes. Although ultimately it is about the cult of celebrity and why we should just leave Britney alone, the show begins as satire with Whelan-Brown presenting the songstress in unpretentious comic exaggeration that is absolutely hilarious, particularly in her Christina Aguilera mockery and attempt to replicate the orchestral input of her own pop hits, in a purely vocal fashion.

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The production is simply staged, meaning that it is up to Whelan-Brown alone to engage the audience. And this she does. She is completely comfortable on stage and is uncannily believable as Britney. She has both the comic timing and the vocal skills to captivate the audience for the full 70 minutes (accompanied by court appointed pianist Matty).

“There’s only two types of people in the world”, ‘Britney’ sings in opening number ‘Circus’, “the ones that entertain and the ones that observe” (sic). The same could be said about the Britney Spears phenomenon itself. For fans and casual observers alike, however, “Britney Spears: The Cabaret” is a show that is completely intoxicating, not just due to Whelan-Brown’s committed, empathetic performance, but the reimagined revelations of Britney’s hits.

Photo c/o – www.brisbanepowerhouse.org

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